Tracing roots leads to new opportunities

Lucy Cayard ’13 arrived on the Wheaton campus with an interest in German language and culture, but no plans to major in the subject. But one class led to another, then to a major, a semester spent studying in Regensburg and fluency in speaking the language.

Now, she will be putting her learning and experiences to work in Germany, having won a 2013 Fulbright Award, living and teaching there for a year.

Cayard traces her interest in the German language to her grandmother, Leonora Balla, who was born and raised in Marburg, Germany. After World War II, Balla emigrated to America to go to school. Ironically, she actually won a Fulbright to the U.S. herself. Unfortunately, she passed away in December before she could learn of her granddaughter’s similar success.

“I think my grandma really wanted me to carry on the family relations with the German family after she died because I am the only person in my family who speaks German somewhat fluently,” says Cayard. “I wish she could have known that I won the Fulbright. I miss her. We had a really special relationship.”

After graduating as valedictorian of her high school class, Cayard signed up to take German in order to fulfill the language requirement at Wheaton. Having visited Germany a couple of times, she ended up completing a semester there during her sophomore year—a year earlier than most college students pursue study abroad.

“Living in Germany was easily one of the best times of my life thus far,” Cayard recalls. “I enjoyed the independence and excitement of living on my own in the university city of Regensburg. I got to visit my family there regularly and to know them better.”

In addition to learning the importance of heritage, growing up in the rural woods of central Maine inspired Cayard to develop an interest in all things green. She remembers playing in the dirt daily in the summer and in snow in the winter. Her family kept an enormous garden each year and raised chickens for eggs. As a result, she believes, “it was ingrained in me from the beginning to waste nothing and provide for myself as much as possible.”

With a minor in anthropology, she was a member of the Outdoors Club, AfterTaste (a “slow food” organization”), and SEEDs (Sustainable Education for Environmental Development). Off campus, she completed an internship at the Upper Valley Food Cooperative in Woodstock, Vt. Cayard credits Wheaton as “a driving force behind my curiosity for the world.”

As a freshman in 2010, Cayard was presented the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany Award. This prize is awarded to students who demonstrate excellence in their work in German classes. As a German tutor to her fellow Wheaton students, Cayard prides herself on her patience with students trying to learn another language. In Germany, the Fulbrighter will use her skills as a teaching assistant for students in English.

Upon her return to the U.S., Cayard will consider whether to apply to graduate school or to the Peace Corps where she can support the mission of international aid and education. “I don’t know what my future has in store for me,” says Cayard, “but I am always up for an adventure.”